PROVO — "You have a mark upon you," Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told graduates of Brigham Young University during commencement exercises on Thursday afternoon. The graduates — totaling 5,996 degrees for bachelors, master and doctorate grads — and their supporters filled the Marriott Center on the university's campus.
"The mark you receive as a BYU graduate is neither involuntary nor self-imposed," he said. "You sought this mark, and it is put upon you by proper authority. After today you have more than a new line on your resume. You have been marked. As a BYU graduate, you are, as we say, a marked man or woman."
Recognizing the challenging times facing graduates — wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, recession and the prospect of further financial disaster, with values and standards being denied or cast aside as more individuals call evil good, and selfishness replacing service — Elder Oaks said that individuals should still take heart.
"There have always been challenging times," he said. "We, the generations of your predecessors, have survived daunting challenges and so will you. The answer to all of these challenges is the same as it always has been. We have a Savior, and He has taught us what we should do."
Quoting the words of President Marion G. Romney to graduates on April 20, 1973, while speaking from the same pulpit, Elder Oaks said, " 'You all have a mark upon you after today — you will be known as a graduate of Brigham Young University, which is part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The people who know you and see you will judge the Church by you. Your great mission is to hold the banner high.'
Just as President Romney said almost forty years ago, Elder Oaks spoke of the "mark" graduates have from attending BYU. He said that the significance of the mark is two-fold; first, like a banner, it will be visible and it will have an effect on others.
"But the most important effect of the mark put upon you today is not the signal it sends to others, but the influence it should have upon you," he said. "A mark can and should be a reminder of our relationship to those who put the mark upon us and also of the responsibilities we have assumed as a result of the certifications they have given us."
The "mark" of a BYU education may be academic to others, but to an individual the "mark" of a BYU degree should be a continuing reminder, Elder Oaks said.
"Foremost among the things you should remember from your years at BYU are the teachings you have received about the things of eternity and the principles of right and wrong that have been upfront in your religion classes and pervasive in many others," he said.
To illustrate this point, Elder Oaks shared some of the teachings of Brigham Young — whose name the institution carries. Elder Oaks shared Brigham's advice on practical living, self-reliance and education. He also spoke of the responsibility individual's have of searching out the things of God.
Elder Oaks used the words of Brigham Young to teach the principles of following a prophet, and teaching individual's how to conduct their lives in harmony with the gospel in a world that pursues other values. He also encouraged students to emulate Brigham Young's inclusive attitude toward his fellowmen. Quoting again from the prophet's words Elder Oaks said, "It has never altered my feelings towards individuals, as men or as women, whether they believe as I do or not. Can you live as neighbors with me? I can with you; and it is no particular concern of mine whether you believe with me or not."
Also speaking at the graduation were BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson, emeritus member of the Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Michael O'Conner, president of the BYU Alumni Association; and Stephen Benson Richards, a graduate.
Convocations for the different colleges are scheduled for today, at various times and places throughout the university's campus.
Spring commencement by the numbers
Geographic origin of graduates
From foreign countries: 489
From U.S. states and territories other than Utah: 3,417
From Utah: 1,887
Gender of graduates
Male: 51% undergrads, 54% total (undergrad + graduate)
Female: 49% undergrads, 46% total (undergrad + graduate)